245 pp. Flux 2011 ISBN: 978-0-7387-2594-9
Source: Goodreads First Reads Winner
Summary (From Goodreads):
Tonight was so much worse than anything before it. Tonight he didn’t stop after the first slap.
At the beginning of senior year, Ann was a smiling, straight-A student and track star with friends and a future. Then she met a haunted young man named Connor. Only she can heal his emotional scars; only he could make her feel so loved — and needed. Ann can’t recall the pivotal moment it all changed, when she surrendered everything to be with him, but by graduation, her life has become a dangerous high wire act. Just one mistake could trigger Connor’s rage, a senseless storm of cruel words and violence damaging everything — and everyone — in its path.
This evocative slideshow of flashbacks reveals a heartbreaking story of love gone terribly wrong.
This book has left me with conflicting emotions, and I mean that in the best way possible. It left me heartbroken, angry, empathetic, and more. Usually when I read a novel about an abusive relationship told from the girl’s perspective, I feel horrible for her and want to help her. I felt that way when I was reading Ann’s story, but I also felt all of those other emotions. Let me break it down…
Amanda Grace tells Ann’s story in reverse chronological order. We start the book a year into Ann’s relationship with Connor and something horrible has happened to Ann. From there, we start moving backwards sometimes by days and sometimes by weeks. We also move back to where we started, in the present, when Ann starts unraveling what just happened to her. Telling the story in this way made it easier for me, as a person who has never been in an abusive relationship, to see how difficult it is for Ann to leave Connor. There would be a day that seemed wonderful for the two of them, and then we’d move back a couple days and see a moment between them that’s absolutely frightening or unnerving. Their relationship is a roller coaster of emotions, and a dangerous one at that. Ann’s isolated and feels like she doesn’t have anyone to help her. As a reader, I felt so helpless. I wanted to reach out to her and be there for her.
We also get to know Connor a little better than we do in other books like But I Love Him. I’m usually despising and hating the abuser to the extreme. That wasn’t the case with Connor. At times I felt like Ann and wanted to help him and be there for him. He’s truly haunted and broken, and it breaks my heart to think that there may not be a chance for him. I can’t condone how he treats Ann, I want that understood, but Amanda Grace did an excellent job of truly fleshing out these two characters. Maybe it’s because I’m a teacher and I want the best for everyone, but I still felt sympathetic for Connor because of his situation. He doesn’t have the important family support he needs to make himself better.
I wish we could know more about Ann in the present. I felt a sense of closure at the end of the book, but probably because I was so invested in her and Connor, I’m left wanting more information. I’d like to know more about Ann’s mother and her friends. I’d love to read a second book to see how Ann’s doing, or maybe even one from Connor’s point of view. Regardless, this is an excellent novel that opens up many discussion options.
My students read Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn in my Young Adult Literature class, and I think But I Love Him would compliment that book very well. I’d love to have my students read both books and discuss their feelings and thoughts about the characters and points of view in both novels. This is a book I loved and can’t wait to share with my students.